Dental sealants are an important tool in preventing childhood cavities and tooth decay. Sealants can help increase the mouth’s natural defenses, especially when used in combination with other preventative measures, such as excellent daily home care and biannual check-ups.
How do sealants protect children’s teeth?
In general, dental sealants are used to protect molars from oral bacteria and harmful oral acids. These larger, flatter teeth are in the back of the mouth and decay-causing bacteria often inhabit the nooks and crannies found on the chewing surfaces of the molars. Because these areas are extremely difficult to access with a regular toothbrush, they are the site of four out of five instances of tooth decay.
If Dr. Day finds that your child is at high risk for tooth decay, he may recommend that the molars and other teeth (bicuspid teeth, for example) be coated with sealant. The sealant acts as a barrier, ensuring that food particles and oral bacteria cannot access vulnerable tooth enamel.
How are sealants applied?
Initially, Dr. Day thoroughly cleans and prepares the molars before painting sealant on the targeted teeth. Some sealants are bright pink when wet and clear when dry. This bright pink coloring enables Dr. Day to see that all pits and fissures have been thoroughly coated.
When every targeted tooth is coated, the sealant is exposed to blue spectrum natural light for several seconds. This specialized light works to harden the sealant and cure the plastic. The final result is a clear (or whitish) layer of thin, hard, durable sealant.
The “sealing” procedure is easily completed in one office visit and is entirely painless.
When should sealants be applied?
Sealants are usually applied when the child's adult molars first emerge. Depending on the oral habits of the child, the sealants may last for the life of the tooth or need replacing several times.
The sealant will be evaluated at each appointment. If the seal begins to lift off, food particles may become trapped against the tooth enamel, causing tooth decay. If this happens, the sealant is removed and replaced.
Dental sealants should not be used as a substitute for fluoride supplements or general oral care.
If you have questions or concerns about dental sealants, please contact our office at 517-393-8500.
Day Family Dental
Dr. Nathan Day, DMD • Dentist • Lansing, MI